Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Arkham Horror

ARKHAM HORROR by Fantasy Flight Games
Published in 2005

Arkham Horror! This is one of the first really big and heavy board games I ever learned to play. Arkham Horror is one of my all time favorites, but playing it is such a long process that I seldom seem to find time for it.
So we are back to Arkham again. An Ancient One is threatening the city of Arkham, and a handful of mythos investigators are fighting unnatural monsters and events, gathering clues and hopefully preventing the Ancient One from rising into this world. The whole town is slipping into chaos, while more and more gates are opening into different "other worlds", monsters are pouring in, and some very horrifying events are happening all over Arkham. This is the setting for Arkham Horror (in my opinion, one of the best themes there are!).

The game requires a large area to play it. My table (110cm x 70cm) was just barely large enough, and the Ancient One himself had to be kept on another table.
The game board is a map of Arkham, with numerous locations for the investigators to visit. The 8 circular spaces below the map are the "other worlds".

I have two expansions for Arkham Horror, "Curse of the Dark Pharaoh" and "Dunwich Horror". The Town of Dunwich is left out, but all the other components and rules are in this game.

This is the AncientOne I chose for this game.
Shudde M'ell. I don't reacognize this creature from the Mythos stories I have read, but it seems that this one is the father of the Chthonians, an underground race of immense beasts, capable of creating earthquakes.

And true enough, during the course of this game, some of the buildings and locations in Arkham may be destroyed by Shudde M'ell's powerful earthquakes.

The goal of Arkham Horror is to prevent this Ancient One from waking up, or if it does wake up, then fend it off in a great Final Fight. The final fight will usually be a very tough one (next to impossible with some of the creatures), so better option is to close and seal enough gates in Arkham. After the sixth gate is sealed, the cosmic horrors withdraw from Arkham and the world is saved.

My two investigators for this game are the following:
Mark Harrigan, the Soldier.
This traumatized soldier has just come back from a war, where he saw something even worse than men killing other men... As he returned, he went to visit his loved one, Sophie, who always believed in his stories about the monsters he had fought against. But something really otherworldly happened to her, leaving Mark a broken and crazed man... So now Mark is in South Church, armed with his flamethrower and his expertise in combat, praying for Sophie's soul, as well for his own... since now it's time to make the monsters pay.

Diana Stanley, the Redeemed Cultist.
Diana desperately wanted to fit into the community, so she joined all the societys she could get into. Her efforts were paying off, and a few months ago she got an invitation from Carl Stanford to join a very elite club in Arkham - the Silver Twilight Lodge. At first she was thrilled to get into such a club, but then she quickly became aware of the horrifying and disturbing things that where going on in the Lodge. Diana decided to get away from the club, but not before she would put these unnatural practices to stop.


The first gate opens in Historical Society. This gate leads to the Abyss, and a Warlock comes out of it.

Mark heads to the woods, where he meets an old, wise man. The man offered to share his wisdom with Mark, but the Soldier - not especially well known for his intellect - doesn't want to spend his time listening to the old man.
Diana goes to Hibb's Roadhouse, and finds some clues there. She is also approached by the bartender, who is willing to sell some information to Diana. Diana doesn't have very much money, so she declines.

The "Southside Strangler" strikes! This mysterious madman will kill potential allies, as long as the investigators don't do something about him...

Gate opens up at the Independence Square, and a Cultist appears from it.

Diana explores the graveyard. She also spots a thief, who stashes his loot to the graveyard. Carefully following the thief, Diana digs the buried item up, finding a Book of Dzyan. New spells can be learned from this book.

Mark explores the Science Building of Miscatonic University. A Mi-Go attacks him there! Mark easily slays the creature with his flamethrower. A powerful Flute of the Outer Gods is left behind by the alien - Mark picks it up. This flute can be used to destroy multiple monsters at once, but using it will also affect its user with devastating mental and physical stress.

Suddenly, a gate opens to the graveyard. Diana is pulled through it, and she quickly finds herself from R'Lyeh! The sudden voyage also disorients and delays her.

Mark seeks to join the Silver Twilight Lodge. The Lodge sends him to the City of the Great Race to test his abilities. Mark is successful and learns a spell called "Mists of Releh". The Lodge is impressed by this, and grants Mark with the membership.

Meanwhile in R'lyeh, Diana is looking for a way out. She spots a boat, but is unable to convince the crew to take her onboard... She has to look for another way off the island.

An Egyptian Exhibit visists the Miscatonic University. Investigators may now try to read the strange hieroglyphics in order to learn clues.

The Southside Strangler kills the well-known and respected Professor Armitage!
Mark is investigating the Strangler case over at Southside. He also comes across a Vampire, which he destroys with his flamethrower.

Diana is out of luck! She finds Cthulhu himself from the R'lyeh! Now she must fight Cthulhu - a fight that she almost definitely will lose...
Diana uses her rifle to fight desperately against the Great Old One, but it's of no use. The minor damage that she manages to inflict is healed by Cthulhu's supernatural regeneration...

Before long, Diana is devoured!

Luckily another investigator arrives to Arkham. An expedition leader Leo Anderson's ship docks in. Leo has a special ability in Leadership.

Leo also has an Ally with him, Dr. Ali Kafour. Mr. Kafour has knowledge about occultistic spells and strange creatures.

A gate leading to the Plateau of Leng opens up at the Unvisited Isle.

A famous painter, Richard Upton Pickman is found to be the next victim of the Southside Strangler!
But quickly after this, Mark manages to catch the madman! His investigation led him to Ma's Boarding House, where he was able to put together the clues to find the murderer. A handsome reward is granted for both of the investigators.
Ma Mathison - the owner of the boarding house - also offers loads of free food for Mark.

The first monster surge occurs! Total of five monsters appear, one from every gate. Most of these creatures begin roaming the outskirts of Arkham. The Ancient One, Shudde M'ell also is beginning to wake up; his earthquakes destroy Velma's Diner.

Erich Weiss, a famous escape artist and master of illusions cancels his show, that was scheduled for tonight... This happens after he learns that he's got something more important to do... During the night, the Warlock from Historical Society is killed, as well as a Witch that had been roaming the streets. Mr. Weiss was seen no more in Arkham.

Leo Anderson stops by at the Egyptian Exhibit in Miscatonic University. He manages to gain some clues from the ancient scriptures.

Mark does what he does best: He kills a Cultist from the French Hill streets.

Yet another gate opens. There is now six gates in Arkham... the investigators should try extra hard to close them.

Also, some very strange powers are affecting the area: The Cultist that Mark just burned, comes back to life! Surprised, Mark can't use his trusty flamethrower so soon again, but the furious soldier beats the Cultist down with his bare hands. Mark also discovers a Book of Anubis from the double-dead Cultist.
When ever another investigator is hurt, this strange book grants strength for Mark.

Mark collects clues from the Black Caves. He also finds a body there, ripped apart by some awful monster...

Leo visists the Curiositie Shoppe and buys a bottle of holy water from there.

Seventh gate opens! Only one more, and the Ancient One will wake up... The investigators recognize this, and run to the nearest gates, as investigating the worlds behind is the only way to close them! Leo begins exploring the freezing Plateau of Leng, while Mark wanders around the Great Hall of Celeano.

In Leng, Leo stumbles into a crevasse. While trying to climb up, he falls and damages himself... He will not be getting out anytime soon.
Nothing interesting is happening at Celeano, where Mark is looking for clues.

While the heroes are out of town, another monster surge happens in Arkham. The terror rises and Shudde M'ell's earthquake decimates the South Church of Arkham!

Some good news as well; A big storm sweeps Arkham and clears the outskirts from all the monsters in there.

Mark's visit in the Hall of Celeano remains uneventful. He discovers a body of some strange creature, but is unable to learn anything from it.

Leo - still in Plateau of Leng - comes across an altar, with a gigantic eye gazing at it. There seems to be a scroll of some sort on the altar, but Leo leaves it... The whole situation seemed very dangerous.

The Doom advances fast! Time of Shudde M'ell draws close.

Mark finds his way back to Arkham. He closes the gate with his strength, but is unable to seal it...

A new gate opens immediately. This one opens in the Black Caves, leading to R'lyeh.

Mark visits the Silver Twilight Lodge. He is a member, and so one of his Lodge brothers decides to help him, by casting a spell on Mark. Mark is blessed, now everything seems easier than before.

Leo finally finds a way out from the Plateau of Leng. He closes the gate behind him.

A gate opens in the Witch House again. This brings the impeding doom very close... The Ancient one will come forth very soon.

Mark decides to improve his mental capabilities, and trains some Lore in the Miscatonic University administration.

Leo explores the old house in Merchant District, simply known as "The Unnamable". While inside, the house is filled with terrible wails and screams! Only Leo's superior experience in strange adventures saves his mind from suffering mental damage from the event...

A monster surge ravages Arkham again: An earthquake destroys the River Docks, and the rising terror causes people to flee from Arkham; the General Store is closed.

Leo heads in through another portal; this time one leading to the Abyss.

Another monster surge, and the Bank of Arkham is destroyed. The terror level also rises fast... It won't be long until Shudde M'ell enters our world.

Mark searches through St. Mary's Hospital and "Ye Olde Magick Shoppe". In the shop, he gets to glance into a crystal ball, learning some things that might come to be soon...

In Abyss, Leo has to hide for a while; too many monsters are lurking around... His return to Arkham is delayed.

The eighth gate opens, allowing Shudde M'ell to awake! The final fight is at hand.

Leo is send back to Arkham, and the two investigators get ready to attack the monster!

Shudde M'ell - on the other hand - is aiming to destroy whole Arkham with his earthquakes!

The Final Battle:
Shudde M'ell is resistant to all kinds of damage, but not invincible.
Mark burns the monster with his flamethrower, while Leo spalshes his Holy Water at it. Some damage is inflicted.
Shudde M'ell responds with earthquakes, destroying more buildings from Arkham.
After using his holy water, Leo switches to his old shotgun, but fails to deal any further damage.
The Ancient One's physical form takes serious damage, but much more would be needed to drive it back...
Time is running out, as Arkham is quickly crumbling...

Not good enough!
The beast is halfway done for, but then the final, massive earthquake hits Arkham, destroying everything and ending any resistance that might still have been bothering the Ancient One!

Game over!


It has been a while since I last played Arkham Horror, and maybe it showed! This was a poor game, I sealed zero gates... Also, many of the items and spells that my investigators had on them, were left unused. But it was still fun to play it, most of the encounters I had were new to me.
Arkham Horror is not that difficult game to beat. At least 50% of my games ends in victory, usually by sealing the required number of gates. But every now and then I come across a session that really doesn't go well - this was one of them.

There is quite a lot of rules in Arkham Horror. But there has to be: The theme is almost perfectly met, and to me this is by far the best horror board game there is. A player is not required to know any Cthulhu-Mythos stories, but it certainly helps! When I play this game, it constantly reminds me of the short stories and their dark, strange and threatening atmosphere.
Also, it would be impossible to fully document a AH session like this. The cards are filled with very cool, thematic stories and events to help the players to establish the sense of supernatural. Arkham Horror is like an interesting nightmare that you might have after watching some really peculiar and scary movies...

The game looks great! The board is dark and moody, but also informative and distinct. The encounter cards doesn't have pictures on them, but it's probably better that way... Everyone, who has read Mythos, knows that many of the creatures and events in there are extremely difficult to picture - and that's why in this case text feeds the imagination better than pictures would.

RATING: 10 /10


As said, AH is one of the best games I know of. And if you begin searching board games from the internet, you will quickly come across it, so I know I'm not the only fan of this amazing game!
But oh, how heavy it is! When playing with friends (very recommended, as it is so much fun to share the experience with someone) you better reserve about 4 hours for it... Sometimes the game goes much faster, but usually you won't get through with less than 2-3 hours.

Solo game works perfectly, but at least I do not usually have the time or energy to face something this big alone :)

1 comment:

  1. I purchased Arkham Horror largely based on the fact that it can be played solo. I find it a lot of fun solo, but I tend to forget to do certain actions at times! It can be overwhelming at times when so much happens, but it still remains one of my favorite board games, even if I haven't pulled it out in ages. Love the site!